SAN ANTONIO – An argument between a man and a woman last year resulted in suspensions for two San Antonio police officers who responded to the disturbance.
The officers were disciplined in part for not taking seriously the man's claims that he was the victim of an assault.
The man, who is not being identified because he was a victim of domestic violence, recorded several cellphone videos of the altercation that occurred inside his apartment July 17, 2016.
The argument appears to have begun when the man asked a woman he was dating to leave his apartment. In the recordings, the man repeatedly and calmly asks the woman to leave, and she began to hit him.
"Why are you hitting me?" the man said in the recording.
"Because I'm angry at you. That's why I'm hitting you," the woman is heard saying.
The man called San Antonio police for help, but when the officers arrived, the residents were not very helpful.
The officers refused to view all of the man's videos of the altercation and called the incident "mutual combat" that was "provoked by the man" and issued tickets to both parties for "fighting."
According to San Antonio police Internal Affairs documents obtained by the Defenders, SAPD officers Hector Gallardo and Carlos Nino were each handed 10-day suspensions for their handling of the incident.
The internal investigation found both officers "failed to recognize the video on the man's cellphone as evidence." The report states: “The male offered to show Gallardo a video claiming there was proof that he was assaulted by the female but Gallardo did not view the evidence."
The man also attempted to show Nino the video. The report states: "Body Cam shows Nino viewing the male’s video but declined to view the rest of the video which depicts the female assaulting the male.”
Nino further advised the male that it was “mutual combat,” “it's just a disturbance” and “you provoked it by calling her an idiot.”
The man asked both officers to call emergency medical services to check his injuries, but neither officer would agree to do that.
According to the report, "Nino stated he wasn't going to call EMS and 'waste their time because he didn't see any injuries.'"
The man called EMS on his own, and Gallardo returned to the scene and issued the man a misdemeanor citation for fighting and instructed another officer to issue the same citation to the woman. The tickets were later dismissed at the request of San Antonio police investigators who stated, "Gallardo failed to know the Laws of the State of Texas by writing the incident up as 'Fighting' and issuing citations for a misdemeanor that did not occur within his presence or view."
Both officers were also captured on body cameras making what investigators called "racially insensitive and derogatory statements" about the man.
Based on that video evidence, Gallardo told an officer "I figured we'd f*** him over so he doesn't talk s*** or call and complain on us," while Nino was recorded referring to the male caller as "smart ass black man."
Nino was also accused of giving the woman a courtesy ride home without permission from his supervisor and then making a traffic stop while the woman was in his back seat.
According to the statement the man provided to investigators, he later drove himself to the San Antonio Military Medical Center, where doctors determined he may have suffered a mild concussion.
The Defenders showed the videos recorded by the man to Marta Pelàez, CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services. She was visibly disturbed by what she saw.
"I would call it domestic violence, absolutely," Pelàez said
In Pelàez's opinion, the officers failed to conduct a thorough investigation, perhaps falling victim to their own bias that a man can't be a victim of domestic violence.
"It's abusive. It really doesn't matter who perpetrates it. It is abusive," Pelàez said. "It needs a good investigation and knowledge on the part of the police officers that are called to make some decisions as to who gets arrested, who gets that ticket. I think in every case, there should be fairness. There should be a very appropriate way of investigating to make sure that you end up with the perpetrator in your hands and not the victim."
According to Pelàez, in 98 percent of domestic violence cases, women are the victims, but in those 2 percent of cases where the man is the victim, they deserve to be treated fairly and have their case fully investigated.
Both officers served their suspensions late last year and were required to undergo additional training.